Opossum and Fisher - Homeschool and Preschool
Zak Kozlowski, February 17, 2017
Tuesday Homeschool at West Hill
The “woods wanderers” barely made it into the woods before we all became fascinated over the amazing tracking conditions! The first set of tracks that caught our eye were those of small carnivores – signs pointed that it may have been created by a Gray Fox. We tracked the Fox, smelt some urine, and found its path cross with clearer Red Fox tracks. And then there was a third mysterious canine – this canine found us in the woods later on – it was John, the domestic dog.
Moving on, the next set of tracks we found were none other than our animal focus of the day – Fisher! We found where a fisher slid on its belly and where another set of fisher tracks that converged! One student had the notion that since it was Valentine ’s Day and that fishers mate this time of year, that their encounter was just too perfect! The “woods wanderers” split into the gnomes and the giants – each building a fire with the objective being to use snowballs to put out the other group fire! Our central fire became a cook station for acorn flour pancakes & blueberry jam. The day ended with a gratitude circle and a goodbye to instructor Danielle, as it was her last day at homeschool. Thank you Danielle.
Tracks and Trails
At Tracks and Trails, we pushed our comforts out in the cold once again. With a deep depth of snow at 4-H acres, the woods were ours to mark up with stories in snow. We ran into a blizzard scenario, where our eyes were covered by orange snow (bandanas). How would we find our home in such a situation? Trusting our footing, our hands, and our ears, we listened to the sound of home (Britta’s Drum) and gave children their first taste of a Drum Stalk!
After finding home, we either made a fire with beet tea, or wandered into a hemlock forest and played on the swampy groves of stumps and overturned hemlock logs. The biggest achievement of day, however, was probably watching the kids, with no prompt, haul out all the backpacks out of the woods on two sleds. Over stumps and stream crossings, no backpack was left behind!
Today’s snow flurries brought the winter explorers to The Fischer Preserve, the old growth forest in Newfield. We ventured along the railroad tracks to meet a wetland filled with beaver channels and cattails. Upon hitting the wetlands, we tracked what we eventually figured out was a bobcat across swampy terrains as the wind caused us to swallow copious amounts of cattail fluff. Once we cleared the wetlands, we made our way into the old growth where we tracked a mystery five-fingered creature across a log and along its frequented path from tree den to tree den. They day wrapped up with some epic gorge sledding, a quick lunch fire, and a new venture back to the van.
Ithaca Forest Preschool
This week had to be the snowiest week of Winter thus far. New animals came out to play, and did we! On Tuesday and Thursday, when an instructor shouted “Possum!”, a handful of preschool opossums learned to play dead for defensive reasons, just as young opossums do. When an instructor shouted “Skunk!” then up the kids went into skunk spraying defensive mode. This made for a great way to travel down to Fall Creek.
We sledded down our hills, and played sled-dog husky racing this week as well. And on Wednesday, we also pretended to be hurt animals, and were saved by one girl’s magic s snow medicine. Glad to have the snow and swirling winds at last!